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Imagine ponders reapplying at Ball State University

In the face of a forced shutdown, Imagine Schools on Broadway held an emergency board meeting Friday to consider avenues for keeping the charter school open this fall, including reapplying for a charter through Ball State University.

Ball State, which sponsors charter schools, decided this month not to renew the charters of three Fort Wayne schools – Imagine Schools on Broadway, Imagine MASTer Academy and Timothy L. Johnson Academy – because of their poor academic performances.

However, Ball State has invited Imagine Schools on Broadway and Imagine MASTer Academy to reapply to possibly regain their charters, said Frank Gallucci, president of the Imagine Schools on Broadway board.

In a word of caution, Gallucci said Ball State officials "emphasize there are no guarantees" those applications will be approved.

During Friday's meeting, three members of the Imagine Schools on Broadway's four-member board were present, and they voted unanimously to dedicate $5,000 toward legal and consulting fees involved with submitting a new application to Ball State and pursuing other routes to keep the school open. Board officials declined to discuss those other options because they had not been finalized.

With a change in state law, charter schools have several options for sponsorship, including a state board, public and private four-year colleges and universities, and the boards of public schools.

A downside to reapplying to Ball State is that the charter school would not know if its application has been accepted until June 6, a date that Gallucci feels is too late for the school community as it makes plans for the fall. The school's last day of classes is June 21.

"Expediency is very important for our students and parents and our staff," he said. "The earlier we get a definite, the more that helps with the continuity of the school."

Principal Ra'Chelle Spearman said she's received a great deal of support from parents who are dedicated to the school. But she doesn't want to give them false hope.

"We have no answers yet," Spearman said. "As of right now, we're planning to close down unless something else happens."

Gallucci said Imagine MASTer Academy is looking at the same options as Imagine Schools on Broadway. Johnson Academy board President Mike Nickleson has said his school is searching for a new sponsor.

The three schools whose charters were not reauthorized enroll more than 1,500 students and employ about 85 teachers, not including assistants, secretaries and other staff, according to the Indiana Department of Education. Registrations for Fort Wayne Community Schools and East Allen County Schools, the two districts the charter schools operate within, won't be until August.

FWCS spokeswoman Krista Stockman has said that families should not have problems registering with the schools they are assigned to based on where they live. Enrolling in a school other than a family's assigned school would be difficult, she said.

aingersoll@jg.net

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